Priests to Discuss Hollingworth Case, Sex Abuse

By Barney Zwartz
The Age [Australia]
June 5, 2003

All 400 Anglican priests in Melbourne have been invited to a debriefing today to discuss the Hollingworth affair and sexual abuse issues.

The acting archbishop, Vicar-General John Wilson, said the meeting had two aims: to get strategies to support ordinary Anglicans and to emphasise that abuse issues must be properly dealt with. "It's a bad time for Anglicans generally. They have had very negative publicity just about every day for months, and this affects people," Bishop Wilson said.

The debriefing, to be held this afternoon at St Barnabas', Glen Waverley, is part of a broad strategy that includes a series of seminars in the next two months, continuing police checks and a new abuse protocol involving an independent investigator.

Bishop Wilson said the main part of the debriefing would involve the priests, chaplains and youth workers detailing how the negative publicity had affected them and their congregations.

But it would also emphasise how seriously the church took the issue of abuse, including training people and making sure they understood the boundaries.

Bishop Wilson said the negative publicity had made it harder for congregations and clergy alike. "A lot of Anglicans also feel that the matter of the governor-general has been used for various agendas, which hasn't helped," he said.

Canon Colleen O'Reilly, the parish priest of St Faith's, Burwood, who plans to attend the meeting, said ordinary Anglicans had been demoralised to see the church's failure so exposed.

Leading Anglican laywoman Dr Muriel Porter, author of Sex, Power and the Clergy, said the debriefing was a great idea. "But I hope Bishop Wilson will encourage the clergy to help the parishioners debrief and have some real discussion about the issues," she said.

. Six Anglican leaders yesterday condemned a Canadian bishop, Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster, for "flagrant disregard" for the rest of the Anglican communion in approving the consecration of a gay "marriage" last week.

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